Focus Groups: These are often done in situ. Individual assignments given before the discussion can be used to produce better results and data. Small workshops are sufficient for the data you’ll need to collect.
Site Visits are important!
“What people do, what they say, and what they say they do; are all different things”
– Margret Mead.
When watching users in their own place there are new methods and structures in place you won’t see in a focus group. Focus Groups have problems with human memory failures, groupthink, and misrepresentation bias.
Eye Tracking is a useful (if very expensive) tool. Intrapage data is beter than interpage data to find how quickly users are actually observing the system. To have an effective study, however, requires real product users performing real product behaviors for the right stuff and the right time in development. Eye Tracking can even be done in the field. Toby is one method, though it’s about $10,000.
Rapid Testing (Prototypes) allows the designer to make near instantaneous changes to tweak processes on the fly. One testing round can lead to one change in about a 3 day turnaround all told. Tweaks made for clarity of use are often best and can be made immediately. It is often easier to elicit needed negative feedback from users on rough prototypes than it is with high fidelity mockups.
Unmoderated Testing is cheap and requires few logistics depending on the service used. The pressure is taken off the UX lead on testing day, but there are no shortcuts – you must still screen and ask questions effectively
High Fidelity Prototyping (Simulations) look sharp and give an emotional response. Hi-Fi allows the designer to identify stakeholder response as it is close to what the actual product will look like. Interaction Design (IxD) is also improved as motion and delicate interaction can be seen.
There are plenty of UX testing methods that are available to designers and each has their place. There are upsides and downsides to each method, many relating to cost, time (which is another way of saying money), and value of the data collected. Performing tests in the wild, at the right time can help you capture wild data, as long as that’s what you want to collect (awesome for mobile testing). Focus groups can be improved with individual assignments, and unmoderated testing saves you more time and stress.